A select group of culinary-minded students got a healthy dose of food science and gained new perspectives about the meals they will be eating this holiday season while celebrating the end of the first academic quarter of the 2021-22 school year in the inaugural Final Friday Cooking Club activity.
The special event marked the opening of the Food Science Laboratory within the chemistry and biochemistry area of the New Academic Building. The facility is equipped to produce and research food and beverages.
Eight students from a variety of academic majors and class years gathered to prepare and eat a three-course meal that featured an entrée of apple- and sage-flavored pork, with a two-potato mash side dish, alongside a green salad speckled with an apple cider vinaigrette, and a dessert of apple pie and ice cream. The menu and activity were organized by chemistry professor Luanne Tilstra, PhD, who teaches a popular Chemistry of Food course.
“Cooking brings me joy and sharing meal preparation with other folks who also enjoy cooking is even more fun,” Tilstra says. “Cooking and eating together is such a great way to build community. I hope a few new friendships arose from the evening.”
While the students were relatively unknown to each other before coming together for this meal, they shared an appreciation for preparing and cooking their own meals – no matter how simple they might be.
First-year biology major Gillian Gorocica developed an interest in cooking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aniyah Richardson, a first-year optical engineering student, links cooking with problem-solving and teamwork aspects of engineering. Meanwhile, senior Abby Holloway started preparing meals out of necessity after moving to an off-campus apartment.
Also, Holloway’s sister is a culinary-trained cook and they have worked together in the kitchen. The mechanical engineering major’s knife cutting skills were shared with the other event participants to peel, slice and dice the potatoes, carrots, apples, and sage elements of the meal.
“I liked being a part of making one of the nicer meals I’ve had all quarter because I usually only have enough time to make something simple like a cake dish or just eat some snacks,” remarks Holloway. “The best part of the night was seeing everyone come together and all of the delicious smells that came together in the kitchen.”
A total of 46 students entered a lottery to participate in the inaugural Final Friday Cooking Club activity.
“The cooking club was an amazing respite from the rigors of the fall quarter,” says Richardson. “For those of us who love to cook or take it seriously as a hobby, being in the Food Science Lab was revitalizing. Meeting those with such a common interest was especially comforting as I moved far to come to Rose (from Pike Road, Alabama).”
First-year mathematics and computer science student Willem De Veirman adds, “The best part was learning about some chemistry of foods and cooking…This was a unique, fun experience in getting my mind temporarily off studying for finals. I got to relax with my peers before a heavy (finals) week ahead. The dinner tasted exceptional. Everything came together well, and a quite simple meal tasted and looked fancier than it really was.”
Other students participating in the event were Nachi Hosahatti, a Fall 2021 mechanical engineering graduate; Emily Macak, a senior mechanical engineering major; Kerith Thomas, a sophomore mechanical engineering student; and Makayla Ray, a sophomore civil engineering student.
Interestingly, in separate post-dinner interviews, group members chose different portions of the meal as their favorites. But they all enjoyed the opportunity to share experiences during dinner conversations.
“Seeing a group of strangers finally relax around each other was beautiful and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it,” Richardson says.
Tilstra agrees, stating “We plated food in the kitchen and carried plates to a classroom, where we ate. As the host of this party, I created my plate last, then did a last-minute check on the pies that were still baking in the oven. So, it took me a while. But all the students waited until I came and sat down before they ate. (Aniyah) said, “waiting is a sign of respect.” Based on what I experienced that Friday evening, these eight students deserve at least as much respect as they paid me. I’m looking forward to do it again.”
Tilstra says lessons learned from the cooking club event and Chemistry of Food course applies to the everyday life of a college student mixing all the ingredients to be successful in science, technology, engineering, and academic areas. She talked about to connection between food and science in an Inside INdiana Business’ Ag+Bio+Science podcast.